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How long has the pan de sal been with us?

- Lydia Castillo (The Philippine Star) - August 29, 2015 - 10:00am

A long time, a very long time. The Filipino is a rice-eating people, but foreign influences have ingrained in our psyche that bread is a nutritious addition to our diet. Children as young as four years old (per our personal observation) – the moment they can steadily hold a piece of bread, bite into it and chew well – are given bread, which is easier to eat.

We all grew up anticipating the call of  “tinapay” or the pot-pot (tooting of the horn) of intinerant vendors on their bikes. In later years, the Filipino would line up at a bakery to get their brown bag of the small – the size of a lady’s fist – kayumanggi (brown), salty (thus its name) pan de sal, dusted all over with the crumbs of day-old bread. We remember the long queue at the Fortune Bakery in Tropical Hut in BF Parañaque, each person anticipating the giant ovens to disgorge the much awaited bread. Our driver would ask for two pieces to eat immediately in the car. Such is the pleasure of eating pan de sal. 

Through the years, the pan de sal has taken on different “characters” – dipped in hot chocolate or coffee, made into sandwiches with a variety of palaman (filling), even used by the street sorbetero to fill with his ice cream, something that made our foreign friends aghast at this unconventional way of enjoying ice cream, and lately made into a bread salad with slightly bitter arugula greens. Toasted, it was also an element in cooking pork pata estofado.

Not to forget the ensaymada, a highly esteemed croissant-like bread which started out being served only on special occasions. This coiled bread is rich with fat, containing butter, margarine and oil. When you want to indulge, this is the bread to go with thick hot cocoa in a little cup. Some bakers today, however, divert from the original texture of the ensaymada and produce a cake-like batter. What a pity!  

But how did pan de sal come about? Recently released by Anvil is a book titled “Panaderia – Philippine Bread, Biscuit and Bakery Traditions” authored by award winning writers Amy Uy and Jenny Orillos, who did long and exhaustive research on their subjects. The title takes its name from the panaderia or bread store/bakery where the pan de sal is baked and sold.

During the colonial period, natives were ordered to plant wheat to make bread. In 1625, the Royal Bakeshop was established to meet the needs of the Spanish community. An outdoor brick oven was built and Maria Orosa began teaching the making of breads using her palayok oven. When the Americans came, bread making became big business. The local panaderia became modern bakeries, producing many other types of bread. But while foreign bakers have established their branches here, the panaderia still stands.

It was a long road to fame and fortune for the pan de sal but it was worth all the effort, for what Filipino household can say that the little brown bread was not among the staples on their tables? It has passed the test of time, and today it is a culinary treasure.

E-mail me at lydiadolores34@gmail.com.

ACIRC AMY UY AND JENNY ORILLOS ATILDE BISCUIT AND BAKERY TRADITIONS BREAD FORTUNE BAKERY MARIA OROSA PHILIPPINE BREAD ROYAL BAKESHOP TROPICAL HUT WHEN THE AMERICANS
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